This is the day to leave the dark behind you
Take the adventure, step beyond the hearth,
Shake off at last the shackles that confined you,
And find the courage for the forward path.
You yearned for freedom through the long night watches,
The day has come and you are free to choose,
Now is your time and season.
Companioned still by your familiar crutches,
And leaning on the props you hope to lose,
You step outside and widen your horizon.
After the dimly burning wick of winter
That seemed to dull and darken everything
The April sun shines clear beyond your shelter
And clean as sight itself. The reed-birds sing,
As heaven reaches down to touch the earth
And circle her, revealing everywhere
A lovely, longed-for blue.
Breathe deep and be renewed by every breath,
Kinned to the keen east wind and cleansing air,
As though the blue itself were blowing through you.
You keep the coastal path where edge meets edge,
The sea and salt marsh touching in North Norfolk,
Reed cutters cuttings, patterned in the sedge,
Open and ease the way that you will walk,
Unbroken reeds still wave their feathered fronds
Through which you glimpse the long line of the sea
And hear its healing voice.
Tentative steps begin to break your bonds,
You push on through the pain that sets you free,
Towards the day when broken bones rejoice
First Steps, Brancaster by Malcolm Guite
Today’s poem is an intimate and vulnerable account of darkness yielding to light. The broken world in which we live breaks us as well, yet as Hemingway has it in A Farewell to Arms “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Though we inhabit a planet marred by sin, it is not bereft of the Word wherewith it was created. As Malcolm Guite has it “God transcends nature, which is not God himself but is His language.”
Within each of us there is an echo of Eden, that masterpiece of God we were purposed to tend. We recognize, as scripture declares in the first chapter of Romans that “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” In The Word in the Wilderness Malcolm Guite writes:
The very fact that we find a constant and seemingly natural correspondence between the outer and inner may itself be a clue to the nature of the universe and our role in it. It may not be simply that we project, but that we, ourselves a part of nature, are finely attuned to and can give a conscious ‘inward’ expression to its outer meanings.
Has nature ever contributed to your healing?
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David When Nathan the Prophet Went to Him, After He Had Gone in to Bathsheba.
1Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
3For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.
4Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
6Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
9Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.
14Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.
18Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, With burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.
D i g D e e p e r
Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings. For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page.
For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.
Lent is a time to reorient ourselves, clarify our minds, slow down, recover from distraction and focus on the values of God’s kingdom. Poetry, with its power to awaken the mind, is an ideal companion for such a time. This collection enables us to turn aside from everyday routine and experience moments of transfigured vision as we journey through the desert landscape of Lent and find refreshment along the way.
Following each poem with a helpful prose reflection, Malcolm Guite has selected from classical and contemporary poets, from Dante, John Donne and George Herbert to Seamus Heaney, Rowan Williams and Gillian Clarke, and his own acclaimed poetry.